ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Leody Taveras and Jonah Heim homered as the AL West-leading Texas Rangers stretched their winning streak to six games with a 5-1 victory over the slumping Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
Taveras snapped an 0-for-12 slide when he homered on the first pitch of the third inning against Zack Littell (0-2). Along with his 11th homer, the Rangers’ No. 9 batter had an RBI single in the seventh.
Heim’s 14th homer was a three-run shot in the eighth.
The Rays (60-39) are 3-11 in July, and not alone atop the AL East for the first time since being tied after winning on opening day as part of their 13-0 start. Baltimore (58-37) is ahead by percentage points after an 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tampa Bay hosts Baltimore in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday night.
Texas (58-39), which wrapped up its second three-game series sweep since the All-Star break, has its longest win streak since also winning six in a row in 2019.
Brock Burke (4-2) struck out three over two scoreless innings in relief of starter Jon Gray, who departed with one out in the fifth because of a bruised left shin after being hit by a comebacker.
Hard-throwing reliever Alex Speas struck out the first three batters he faced in his big league debut before Cody Bradford worked the ninth for Texas, allowing Jose Siri’s one-out solo homer that prevented the shutout.
The 25-year-old Speas took over for Burke with one on and one out in the seventh, which ended with pinch-hitter Wander Franco striking out on the same pitch that Manuel Margot was thrown out trying to steal. Speas, a second-round draft pick in 2016, then pitched a perfect eighth with two more strikeouts.
All-Star right fielder Adolis García got his MLB-leading 11th outfield assist when Josh Lowe tried to score from first base on Margot’s double to end the second inning. García picked up the ball off the warning track and made a strong throw to second baseman Marcus Semien for the relay to catcher Heim.
García left the game for a pinch runner after getting hit by a pitch on his left arm in the eighth.
A day after signing Wyatt Langford, the fourth overall draft pick out of Florida, the Rangers said they had signed 12 more players taken in last week’s draft. They have signed all eight players they got in the first 10 rounds, and 13 of their 18 picks overall.
Rays: A showdown between the top teams in the AL East. “It’s a big series. I’m not going to lie. It’s a big series, they’ve played incredibly well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said even before the finale in Texas.
Rangers: After an off day Thursday, the Rangers open a three-game series Friday night against the Dodgers. Los Angeles hasn’t been to Globe Life Field since since winning the World Series there — in six games against the Rays. The NL Division Series and NL Championship Series were also there at the end of the pandemic-impacted 2020 season.